A day on the beach often involves picking up sea shells and the unusual bits and pieces that have become weathered by the sea. One such item is the worn and weathered beach glass that almost resembles a flat pebble which many people do find fascinating.
Beach glass can be found in many colours, shape or size all around the Thanet coastline in every one the Thanet Bays. So what do we know about beach glass and its origins ?
Beach glass comes in many colours and thickness and this helps to determine the date of the piece of Glass. In the majority of cases 99.9% of the beach glass is no older than the 1870's as that was the period when glass manufacturing and the production of mineral water bottles went into mass production. Following the invention of the Codd mineral water bottle and the internal screw top glass bottle in the early 1870's, and the changes to bottle production by Dan Ryland the glass mineral water bottle and other bottles became a disposable item.
Glass from the 1870's up until the first world war was thicker than it is today and in the majority of cases the colour was either light green aqua or light blue aqua. The reason for these colours was because in those days every drink was made from natural ingredients which in turn produced sediment which in turn would make the drink cloudy and could be off putting. So a bit of colour in the glass made the drink more attractive
In hot weather the Victorians would take a drink with them like we do today when we visit the beach and breakages would often lead to glass ending up in the sea. In most cases this is the origin of the thick green aqua or light blue aqua pieces of worn glass we find on beach today.
As time progressed into the 20th Century glass become clearer and thinner and mass production created the disposable society. Glass had also changed in colour with the use of chemicals and additives the range of colours changed with light green, amber and clear becoming abundant.
So there is a basic rule with beach glass the thicker the glass the older the bottle and if it is green of light blue aqua it is pre first world war. However, there are rarities in beach glass in the thicker varieties such as dark blue glass which is created by adding cobalt to the molten glass, then there is thick yellow glass which contains Uranium or Sulphur, then thick amber, dark amber and green glass containing iron and various measures of sulphur, and the rarest of the rare which is Ruby Red which is achieved by adding gold to the molten glass. Any of these colours in thick glass found on the beach I would consider to be a challenge.
So where are the hot spots ? The answer is simple as all three towns Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate each have Victorian beaches with further historical evidence of finds dating to the mid 1700's. Keeping to the Victorian era all three main beaches do turn up smooth thick pebble shaped Victorian glass which can be found below the high water mark .
The beach adjacent to the East Pier at Ramsgate is very volatile and the movement of the coarse beach sand always responds to changing weather conditions, so the beach is always on the move with aggressive action on glass. Therefore all beach glass found on Ramsgate is smooth and weathered and has this sparkle to it when held up to the light. Broadstairs is more or less the same as Ramsgate but it is possible to find pieces of glass with the original embossment and even possible to identify the original type of bottle as the abrasive action of the sand is not as aggressive.
Margate main sands on the other hand does have the same beach glass as Ramsgate and Broadstairs. However, below the high water mark the sand contains silt like sand under the surface which does not easily respond to changing weather conditions and remains very settled. Because of this the action of the sand is not as aggressive on glass so it is possible to find broken Victorian glass in shards which are only slightly worn with a smooth sheen with the original embossments readable. In fact it is possible to find complete Victorian mineral water bottles worn by the action of sand in the same texture as the small pebble shape pieces of glass . This is a unique and in some cases the oxide in the glass has also changed the tone of the bottle which is due to a reation buried under the sand.
Building a collection of beach glass from the Thanet coast is so easy as it abundant and with a seaside history dating back to the 1700's there is so much variety to be found.
In the Photograph above is some beach glass I found this afternoon (24/04/11) with the more later 20th Century glass being more predominant. I did find a thick piece of weathered dark blue which is very attractive when held up to the light, it was this piece that prompted me to write this post.